Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Writing the Seasonal Essay: This Time Next Year

So it's December 16 and I'm working on holiday essays. Am I a little (or a lot) behind? Don't I know that magazines work months ahead, that even newspapers need more lead time, and that websites too, usually want seasonal material at least a few weeks in advance? I do. The thing is, I'm not late. I'm early. I'm writing these pieces not to sell now, but to market for publication next year.

Sure, I could write Christmas material in July, back-to-school pieces in May, Valentine's Day articles in October, and summer-themed item in March. I've often done that sort of thing (especially when I worked in PR), but frankly I don't like it. It was always a struggle to get in the mood for Frosty when I was melting myself.

At some point, I decided to just write the seasonal, timing-sensitive essays while right in the thick of things, when I was surrounded by the sights, sounds, and feelings of the particular occasion. I began churning out first drafts of holiday essays in December, essays about graduations or weddings in June, back-to-school in September, Thanksgiving in November. I put them aside for a few months – highly recommended of course for any first draft – and then tackle revisions and/or rewrites a few months later. Eventually, I make the submissions.

It doesn't always work. Sometimes, when I pull out a piece, I cannot believe I ever thought that topic would work. "Who cares?" I berate myself, and decide to skip it entirely. Other times (alas, not so frequent!), it works out pretty well: I am delightfully surprised at what I had forgotten I had already come up with a few months before.

Sometimes, one year's seasonal essays don't sell in time for the next. But then, that doesn't really matter, as the very nature of these kinds of pieces is their evergreen status. As I've said to myself on more than one occasion when what I truly wanted didn't materialize under the tree: There's always next year. Plus, having a small "inventory" of such pieces around is sort of like having a bit of money in the bank – so long as I remember to make the withdrawal at the right time.


Julie said...

What great advice Lisa. I sometimes think of a really great idea (at least in my mind) for a seasonal piece, but of course that is right during the season. But,no matter how many little notes I make to remind myself, if I try and write it later (not during the season) I just get blocked. I agree, it makes such a difference to be in the midst of it all. Hadn't really thought about the idea of writing a first draft and just saving it for the following year, having it ready at those early submission times. Thanks!

Mummy mania said...

This is a great idea! And of course, like all the best ones, so obvious once its pointed out to you. so without further ado, I'm off to write some articles on Christmas... for next year. and for a list freak like myself, I get to tick off items a whole 12 months early! THanks for this..

Susan Bearman said...

Brilliant idea. I've always struggled with getting into the habit of writing 3-4 months ahead for these very reasons. Makes much more sense your way. How do you remind yourself to go back to revise and submit?

Lisa Romeo said...

Good question, 2KoP.
I tend to be really old school about that -- I pencil it in a few months hence on a paper calendar where I keep notes about deadlines.
I have a routine of checking that darn thing a few times a week.
Wish I had a more high tech answer!

Essays Writing said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.